President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer seldom agree on anything, but on Thursday the former announced a nationwide ban of nearly all vape flavors – an initiative that the senator has been fighting for months to protect children from e-cigarette products that have citizens either falling ill or dead across the country.
Thirty days after the Jan. 2 announcement, only menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarette cartridges should be available to the public, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
In 2017, 17.3 percent of high school students or 45,000 pupils citywide used an e-cigarette within 30 days, according to the Dept. of Health. In Queens, 17.8 percent of public high school students or 12,000 pupils used an e-cigarette within 30 days.
“Bubble gum, cookies and cream, gummy bear, a medley of fruits, candies, and mints have one purpose when combined with an e-cig: hook kids,” said Schumer in September. “Those flavors shouldn’t be on shelves.”
Despite Trump initially promising a full ban on all flavors, statistics have shown that teens haven’t gravitated towards the menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, and adults that have been transitioning off traditional cigarettes use the device to accomplish that goal, according to the FDA. An initial full ban policy has also resulted in concerns over youths and adults turning towards a black market to use the product.
“By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for our youth,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
In 2017, 6.6 percent of adults or 437,000 adults citywide used an e-cigarette in 12 months, according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In Queens, 6.3 percent of adults or 112,000 adults used an e-cigarette in 12 months.
In September, there were at least 55 deaths and 2,500 cases of lung injuries nationwide related to e-cigarette devices, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Despite being marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, a New England Journal of Medicine study found that some higher voltage e-cigarettes contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to fifteen times more than regular cigarettes. In addition, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a chemical that has been shown to have negative health impacts on adolescent brain development.
Impulse control and mood disorders were just a few of the problems adolescents could develop in adulthood, according to the Surgeon General.
Even with a ban, there is still the potential for tobacco companies to reintroduce the kiddy-flavors at a later time with a formal application to the FDA, according to Schumer in September. It would be up to the federal agency to keep those loopholes closed.
“There is no doubt that as the FDA finalizes a ban on kid-friendly e-cigs that the agency will be met with intense pressure by the industry to water it down as much as possible, so the message to the FDA today is: do not cave,” added Schumer.
The FDA said that it is committed to preventing youth from getting accessing the devices.
“We will continue to use our full regulatory authority thoughtfully and thoroughly to tackle this alarming crisis that’s affecting children, families, schools and communities,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn.”